The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Introducing Kanak: the Milan team brings Indian food to 5th Street Station

Kanak

Charanjeet Ghotra is at it again. The co-owner of several revered Indian restaurants in Virginia has opened yet another.

A native of Punjab, India, Ghotra came to the United States in 1996, at the age of 20, as he puts it: “with the American dream in my mind.” Family friends first put him to work at a Long Island restaurant, and then sent him to Virginia Beach to help with another they owned, Nawab. There, he met his future business partner, Jaswander Singh. Now they have four restaurants.

It took a few years of learning the ropes before the duo opened their first one in 2002, Milan Indian Cuisine in Lynchburg. The following year they opened another Milan, in Charlottesville. And in 2009, they added Anokha, in Richmond. Each earned a loyal following. And, then this week came their fourth restaurant, Kanak Indian Kitchen, in 5th Street Station.

kanakroom

The idea behind Kanak is simple: bring their beloved Indian food to another part of the town. Milan fans on the south side of Charlottesville can now enjoy better access to favorites like chicken tikka masala, vin d’ alho, saag, and korma. But, beyond these standards, Kanak (Sanskrit for “gold” or “wheat”) also introduces new dishes not found at Milan.

A menu of small plates for sharing, for example, includes dishes like Rechado Prawns – prawns with chili, coconut, sugar cane vinegar, tamarind, and garlic. Or, one of Ghotra’s favorites, Stuffed Aloo Tiki – potato patties with a toasted spice mix, yogurt, and chutney.

potato

For entrees, Ghotra likes the catfish (yes, catfish!) – Punjabi Masala Catfish – spiked with garam masala, ajwain, lime juice, and tadka – Indian spices tempered in ghee. Chukundari Kofta, meanwhile, removes meat from the traditional kofta meatball, and replaces it with a bright red minced beets, cashew, and potato, encased in semolina, bathed in creamy spinach yogurt sauce.

beets

Kanak is in 5th Street Station at 385 Merchant Walk Square Suite 400. Lunch is Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner is Tuesday through Sunday, 5 pm – 10 pm.

 

potato

Five Finds on Friday: Lindsey Nielsen

lindsey

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Lindsey Nielsen, GM of Oakhart Social, which has just launched a charity cocktail series, where each month a staff member creates a special cocktail and chooses a charity to benefit from its sales. First up is Nielsen, with her Pretty in Pink, which combines Boodles Gin, elderflower, creme de cassis, lemon, and sparkling rosé. All profits go to SARA, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. Nielsen’s picks:

1) Mushroom Toast at Common House. “As a pescatarian, this smoked mushroom toast totally hits the spot. There’s a depth of flavor that’s often missing in vegetable dishes.”

2) Pretzel Croissant (Everything) at MarieBette. “Oh, how I love these. I often plan on saving half for my husband, but end up eating the whole thing in my car. Also, my favorite espresso in town.”

3) Cabbage with Black Vinegar at Taste of China. “It was hard to pick one dish from Taste of China. You’ll often find me and a bunch of industry friends here on a Sunday night. I think this one is off-menu, but the tofu in hot oil and the green beans with garlic are also awesome.”

4) Cozze ai Ferri e Pane at Tavola. “The whole dining experience at Tavola is so enjoyable. It feels like Cheers every time I go, and I know I’m going to get excellent service. Few things make my night like Collin bringing over a plate of steaming garlicky muscles. Extra bread please.”

5) Whole Flounder at Oakhart Social. “As a friend recently said, this fish is ‘stupid good.'” 

prezzant

Food Find: Cinnamon Roll at Belle

cinnamon roll

During one of my recent visits to Belle for a breakfast sandwich, baker Scott Shanesy emerged from the kitchen to tell me how pleased he was with his recent batches of cinnamon rolls. He displayed the earnest excitement of a passionate cook who had nailed it. As if I were not already sold, immediately after we spoke, one of Charlottesville’s better chefs entered Belle, ordered breakfast, and, unprompted, began congratulating Shanesy on his cinnamon rolls, which he had tried on a previous visit. “Honestly, man,” he said, “best cinnamon roll I have had in a long time.”

Now that I have had one, I see what they mean.

Shanesy uses a sourdough that he ferments for 48 hours, which not only adds flavor but also yields a roll that retains a pleasantly soft texture all day long, without drying out. He incorporates a touch of orange into the glaze, giving it a citrusy tang that complements that of the dough. If any of this sounds off-putting, it is because my words do not do justice to the finished product. Shanesy’s well-considered tweaks do not offend the palate as unnecessary cheffy deviations. Rather, the result is a traditional cinnamon roll experience, enhanced.